CSU Los Angeles

Graduation Initiative Plan: Focus on Graduation Executive Summary

Since the passage of the federal Student Right-to-Know Act in 1990, graduation rates of college and university students in this country have been a subject of much debate and controversy. They have become widely accepted outcome measures for postsecondary education and as a result, student persistence and graduation rates have become key measures of accountability.

If there is a single factor that seems to distinguish colleges and universities that have truly made a difference on behalf of underrepresented minority students, it is attention to graduation rates. This includes monitoring year-to-year changes, studying the impact of different interventions on student outcomes, breaking down the numbers among different student populations, and continuously asking themselves how they could improve (Education Sector, 2008).

In this vein, the California State University system has launched a major initiative which has a focus of increasing the percentage of first-time freshmen who graduate within 6 years. The goal is to reach the top quartile of our comparison institutions for full-time freshman 6-year graduation rates. For CSULA this represents an increase of ten percentage points (from 34.8 percent to 44.8 percent). Additionally, the CSU graduation initiative focuses on closing the gap in graduation rates between students from Underrepresented Minority Groups (URM) and Non-Underrepresented Minority Groups (Non-URM).

At California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), tracking enrollment is the foundation of planning for the future. Monitoring retention rates is important because students who return the second year are likely to graduate. Student characteristics and behaviors, such as preparation for college, motivation and engagement, time spent studying, finances, work, and family obligations all affect retention rates. Institutional characteristics also affect whether or not a student chooses to stay. Although institutions that enroll better-prepared students who are traditional freshmen and who live on campus have higher retentions rates, institutions that make personal connections with students and have high levels of faculty involvement with students also retain students at higher rates.

In the Fall of 2008, CSULA launched a series of targeted programs, services and interventions which focused on increasing the first and second year retention rates of our “at-risk” first-time freshmen. In the Fall of 2009, these services were expanded to include all first-time freshmen. The purpose of the CSULA Graduation Initiative Plan is to focus on strategic actions that will result in increasing the numbers of first-time freshmen who graduate within six years. Because nearly two-thirds of the new students to CSULA are transfers, strategic activities that will increase the percentage of upper division transfer students who graduate within 4 years are also included in the plan. Activities include the use of learning communities and block registration for first-time freshmen. Increased opportunities for involvement in research, scholarly and creative activities as well as community engagement opportunities will be a focus for all students. Early start opportunities for first-time freshmen are also included in our retention efforts. Metrics will include monitoring of year-to-year retention rates, levels of student satisfaction, as well as remediation rates.

The six-year target increase goals for first-time freshmen to be achieved by the end of summer 2015 are the following:

  • Total: 10 percent increase to 45 percent
  • URM: 11 percent increase to 42 percent
  • Non-URM:9 percent increase to 53 percent

The four-year target increase goals for transfers to be achieved by the end of summer 2015 are:

  • Total: 10 percent increase to 57 percent
  • URM: 10 percent increase to 56 percent
  • Non-URM: 10 percent increase to 59 percent

Raising the level of student success is a continuous process that involves implementation, assessment and shared responsibility. The strategic goals, objectives and actions for retention and graduation improvement that are summarized above are concepts that will be studied and implemented as appropriate. We fully expect that the University’s initial plan will evolve and expand to meet the changing external and internal demands.


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